Digs to precede Freeport Historical Society upgrades

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FREEPORT — The Historical Society is planning archaeological testing to recover potentially significant artifacts before beginning a series of improvements to its Enoch Harrington House headquarters at 45 Main St.

With the renovation, the society hopes to increase space, stabilize the structure and build a climate-controlled curation facility. 

But the proposed work could impact or disturb deposits and artifacts associated with the property’s history.

Because of this, Executive Director Jim Cram and collections manager Holly Hurd met with Leith Smith of the Maine Historic Preservation Commission in January to discuss improvements and develop a testing strategy focused on areas potentially disturbed by construction. 

Testing of the Harrington House property will be done through the excavation of up to 38 shovel test pits at various places on the property. Soil from each test will be screened to retrieve artifacts. 

According to Cram, the Harrington House, built in 1830, is consistent with the connected New England architecture of the 19th century. The main home is attached to a barn at the back of the property by a “middle” and “back” house. The design allowed homeowners to get to their barn animals in the winter without going outside. 

Excavation will be performed under and around the building’s rear ells, elevated privy, new curation facility, north and south yards, and barn.

The society plans on working with volunteer high school groups and Boy Scout troops to carry out the work.

Field work will be followed by a preliminary report providing a summary of the findings. If significant archaeological features are found in the areas to be disturbed, recommendations for their treatment will be provided. 

Funding for the testing and construction will come from a $3,800 grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation and a $1 million donation from the Denney Fund.  

The grant money comes from the Johanna Favrot Fund and aims to save historic environments in order to “foster an appreciation for (the) nation’s diverse cultural heritage.” 

According to the National Trust’s web page, the selection process for Johanna Favrot Fund grants are “very competitive.” 

“We are so happy to get our nose under the tent of the National Trust,” Cram said. “For them to recognize this project is huge.”

During the historical society’s annual meeting in April, retired Cole Haan CEO and Freeport resident George Denney announced he would donate $1 million to the organization.

Cram feels very grateful for both sources of funding and is confident the digs will be well underway come September. 

“You never know what you might find,” Cram said. “Maybe something unexpected.”

Jocelyn Van Saun can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 183 or jvansaun@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter @JocelynVanSaun.

The Freeport Historical Society received funding from the National Trust for Historic Preservation to help execute archaeological digs on the Enoch Harrington House property at 45 Main St.

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